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There’s an adorable talking raccoon! (But he fires machine guns, and has a tendency to swear.) There’s a talking tree who only says "I am Groot!" (Only, he impales his enemies with his extending branches, and flips them around the room like rag dolls.)
I feel your pain Marvel parents. There are so many reasons why you’d want to bring your kids to see James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend, and a handful of reservations keeping you from grabbing tickets for the whole family. Starting with the fact that you might have seen James Gunn’s previous films (Super and Slither), and they sure don’t qualify as kid-friendly entertainment.
I'm going to have to get into spoilers here, but know this: Guardians of the Galaxy is a Marvel movie first, and a James Gunn movie second – though it retains just enough of each trademark to make it appealing to comic and Troma fanbases. When compared to previous Marvel movies, Guardians of the Galaxy is admittedly – and unabashedly – grittier, gruffer and more rebellious than its likeminded predecessor, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. Gunn made the perfect comparison during Comic-Con last year when he said if The Avengers are The Beatles, then the Guardians are the sexy, rule-defying Rolling Stones.
But would you let your kids listen to the Rolling Stones, or watch a debauchery-filled documentary about their behind-the-scenes lives?
Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t get that raunchy (or raunchy at all, to be honest). This shot, of a bare-backed Gamora (Zoe Saldana), isn’t even in the final cut of the movie… and likely was only filmed for inclusion in trailers. A dirty marketing trick, indeed.
But there are obstacles that pop up on screen during Guardians of the Galaxy that parents need to know about. I’ve been writing about appropriate content for years now, and what I’ve learned is that, obviously, every parent is different. We have a pretty good handle on what our kids can and cannot handle. If your children have watched every R-rated movie under the sun, there’s nothing in Guardians of the Galaxy that will knock them back on their heels.
You might have a young child, though, who is easing into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and think that they will like the movie based on the presence of Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), the charismatic Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) or the high-flying science-fiction adventure. Is Guardians OK for them?
As a parent, I wouldn’t make Guardians of the Galaxy your kid’s first Marvel movie. If they have followed the trajectory of the Marvel movies to this point – as my 10-year-old son has – then they can handle the level of comic-book combat on screen in James Gunn’s movie. This is a sci-fi actioner, with plenty of fist fights between hulking creatures (like Dave Bautista’s hulking Drax the Destroyer); laser-blasting gun battles; and explosive spacecraft sequences. The only act of violence that bothered me, as a dad sitting next to my own son, was a female character exploding because she gripped one of the Infinity Stones in The Collector’s offices. It wasn’t bloody, but it was sci-fi gory.
There are two other issues I’d bring up as a mild warning to parents. OK, three. One is language, which is becoming less and less an interest in our house as I learn all the delightful curse words my 10-year-old picks up at school. (Thanks, classmates!) But there are a handful of "shits," a few "dicks" and a well-timed "bitch" in Guardians. I told you. The Rolling Stones.
The movie also starts with a significant death Young Peter Quill, home on Earth, watches his mom die in a hospital bed. It’s not a brutal scene, but if you think it will disturb your child, keep it in mind. Finally, the plot of Guardians of the Galaxy might fly over your kid’s head. The political and revenge-driven machinations of unusual characters like Ronan (Lee Pace), Drax and Thanos are hard to follow, even for an adult. I asked my kid on the ride home if he understood certain elements. He didn’t. But he LOVED Groot.
Your kids will, too. Mostly. I’m sticking with the age-range of my own son and saying that most 9-year-old kids and up will dial into the tomfoolery of Guardians of the Galaxy, and will even feel that they are watching something a little cool and dangerous with you. (For the record, I left my 6-year-old home, even though he has seen most of the Marvel films. This one just seemed a little too gruff for him, and in hindsight, I’m glad I waited to show it to him, for the reasons I laid out above.)
Everyone’s situation is different, and we parent to the best of our abilities. I hope this column helped make your decision a little easier this weekend!